Researchers at the Indiana University Medical Center are experimenting with electrically stimulating knee pads for the symptomatic treatment of osteoarthritis, with some promising results.
It is said to be the first non-drug, noninvasive treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee. The user puts pads on the knees and the Velcro wrap holds them in place. Two wires, one for each knee, connect the pads to the generator (which can be worn on a belt) and the system delivers mild electrical stimulation to the area. The wearer does not feel any pain.
It can be worn under clothing or at night, and users are advised to wear it for at least six hours a day, though research suggests wearing it longer can produce better results.
Exactly how electrical signals could work to reduce pain is not clear, but one theory is that they may block or interfere with signals getting through to the brain from the source of pain.
Results from the trial of the device show that it could work for a significant number of patients, and that benefits increased with the length of time it was on the knee.
Improvement occurred in 59 per cent of patients who used it for less than 750 hours, and for 73 per cent of those who used it for more than 750 hours. Analysis of a smaller group of patients showed that 45.3 per cent reduced their non-steroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) use by 50 per cent or more.
‘A pulsed electrical stimulation device successfully alleviated knee symptoms in patients who had failed non-surgical therapy. Less than 250 hours of therapy provided relief, but improvement increased after 750 hours,’ said researchers.
An earlier, smaller trial at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, also in the U.S., involving around 80 people, showed similar benefits, and patients who had been treated with the device had greater improvement than those who did not use one.
The Daily Mail . . .